The Beacon Story
Making a visible difference for people with sight loss
The charity first began life in 1875 as the Wolverhampton Society for the Blind. Its purpose was to visit blind people in the area and give them an opportunity to learn to read by deciphering embossed type.
While the support we offer to our service users has changed vastly since then one thing has remained the same, we are dedicated to helping people with sight loss live a fuller, more independent life.
In 1882 the charity acquired a house in Alexandra Street where five blind men could work and in 1899 it is became one of the first charities in the UK to open its own shop. The retail unit, on Victoria Street in Wolverhampton, sold baskets, chair seating and mats which had been made by the men and women based in a workshop on the same site.
In 1926 the charity changed its name to the Wolverhampton, Dudley and Districts Institutions for the Blind to reflect its increased area of operation.
Fast forward to 1961 and it purchased seven acres of land at Sedgley from the Earl of Dudley and in 1963 a new centre was opened. This included a concert hall, canteen, handicraft centre, Braille library, offices and a large single storey building containing workshops. During the second half of the 1960s, two of the workshops were used to provide visually impaired people with employment in the engineering field.
In 1968 the Institute set up another fund, this time to build and equip a residential home to provide accommodation for the local blind population as the nearest homes for the blind were in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.
Beacon House was opened in March 1973. Another complex of 27 purpose built bungalows funded by Wolverhampton born industrialist Sir Charles Hayward was opened in 1976.
In April 1991 the name of the Institute was changed to Beacon Centre for the Blind to reflect changing circumstances and the rapid increase in the centre’s range of services meant that the workshops ceased to be the main focus of its work and they eventually closed in 2003.
That left the charity operating in buildings which were not fit for purpose against a background of increased need for services.
As a result the council of management embarked on a challenging project to completely redevelop all the facilities.
That led to the centre being completely re-built and the new Beacon Centre opened in 2009 with facilities open to all members of the public.